Take Charge

Russell's Story

February 18, 2016

RussellKemp.jpg Russell Kemp, right, attended the AYA Holiday Party with his brother.

At the age of just 18, Russell Kemp was diagnosed with stage 4 liver cancer. This came as a huge shock to him and his family because he was an active and healthy young man.

Russell’s knees were bothering him in early February of 2015. He saw a doctor where he was given braces and crutches to help alleviate the pain, but no thoughts that this could be cancer. One afternoon, Russell and his brother Tyler were horsing around and a gentle sibling shove took Russell down completely where he began to scream from pain. His neighbors heard him and called 911 and Russell was rushed to the hospital to find out that he had fractured his left hip in two places. The local hospital sent him home to heal but just one week later the pain wasn’t getting better, so he was back in the hospital. Further testing and scans revealed spots on Russell’s liver and a large mass on his hip. Russell was transferred to Moffitt Cancer Center where a biopsy revealed his liver cancer had spread and an intense chemo plan would begin.

Moffitt had to put a metal rod in Russell’s hip to stabilize his movement. After that surgery, in addition to intense physical therapy, Russell endured 10 rounds of radiation in conjunction with seven rounds of aggressive chemotherapy, received via an IV, which caused Russell to become very ill where he experienced loss of appetite and severe weight loss.

Despite his battle with cancer, Russell went on to graduate from Plant City High School and has set aggressive goals for himself to one day become a motivational speaker and to help coach his alma mater’s football team.

Russell attributes his successful treatments to having a positive attitude. He said that he never asked himself, why me? “Why not me,” said Russell. “I could be the person who saves other people in the future. That is my contribution.”

Just last week, Russell was at Moffitt for a routine CT scan which revealed his chemotherapy was no longer being effective. His oncologist, Dr. Richard Kim, shared with Russell that a clinical trial is set to launch in a few weeks and the drug is designed to target his exact cancer. Russell remains hopeful and says that he knows he will beat this. “Cancer has me contained for right now, but it won’t beat me,” he said.

Russell’s specific type of cancer is typically found among people ages 50-70, with the average age being 63. As an 18-year-old, this is an extremely rare diagnosis.

The good news, Russell’s liver is completely functional. With high hopes of the clinical trial doing its job, Russell sees a bright future for himself.